Where was Mark Lippert's security detail?

The news about the attack on our South Korean ambassador yesterday looks, on the surface, like a story which is going to fade into the background pretty quickly. After all, while tragic and certainly painful for both the victim and his family, it seems like he’s going to pull through and there won’t be some vast, dark conspiracy behind it all.

Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea who was attacked in Seoul by a blade-wielding assailant, sent out a tweet Thursday saying he was doing well and would be back to work soon.

“Doing well&in great spirits! Robyn, Sejun, Grigsby & I — deeply moved by the support!” the ambassador wrote, referring to his wife, son and dog.

Lippert, 42, who was taken to Kangbuk Samsung Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, suffered wounds to his face and wrist. Police said the attacker used a blade about 10 inches long and shouted that North and South Korea should be reunified, according to reports.

The attacker, 55 year old Kim Ki-jong, is described in the early reports as having a long history of anti-U.S. protests. Absent some further information, such as his turning out to be a deep cover spy for North Korea or some other entity, this may turn out to be a random act of craziness. Lippert will bear the scars of this for the rest of his life, I’m sure, but thankfully he should make a full recovery and carry on with his work and his life. But none of this is the real story here.

Early reports claimed that the ambassador was giving a lecture at the time of the attack, but after more investigation it was revealed that he was sitting at a table at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. In order to get two gashes of that size in your face and a puncture wound in your arm with a ten inch long fruit knife, Ki-jong had to have gotten quite up close and personal. So, as the title of this piece asks, where was the security detail for the ambassador when the lunatic was approaching, pulling the knife and slashing multiple times? I’m hearing people asking the question in some of the television coverage, but the only answers thus far are that an investigation is ongoing.

Wasn’t there supposed to have been an exhaustive review of all of our embassies and the security protocols in place after the debacle in Benghazi? I’ll grant you, Seoul isn’t generally considered to be as dangerous as Damascus or Baghdad, but it’s still located on the Korean Peninsula. That’s a bit like saying that the South Bronx isn’t nearly as sketchy as Brownsville, but you still don’t want to get caught wandering around alone at night in either one. North Korea is always up to some form of mischief or another and, just by the way, they’re a nuclear power to boot.

Maybe this will turn out to be a situation where Lippert was one of those “man of the people” type ambassadors who didn’t want to be hemmed in by his detail and kept from the citizens. Perhaps it was a sudden schedule change which left him more exposed, or possibly somebody was just asleep at the switch. Either way, the real question to be answered in the days to come has less to do with the guy with the knife than how Lippert was left hanging out to dry in a position where he could get cut up that quickly.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on March 20, 2023